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Recent Highlights

The American Council on Germany holds policy discussions in New York City, across the United States, and in Germany on an ongoing basis.

Munich Security Conference
On Saturday, February 17, the American Council on Germany partnered with the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies to host an official side event at the Munich Security Conference. More than 50 participants at the MSC – including elected officials, diplomats, journalists, and representatives from European and American think tanks – attended the event, which focused on the domestic challenges in setting foreign policy priorities in an era of political polarization.

H.E. Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, kicked off the discussion By saying that with the populist movements in Europe and the United States one has to make the case for the liberal world order. Bundestag members Niels Annen (SPD) and Andreas Nick (CDU), both of whom serve on the Bundestag’s Committee on Foreign Relations, offered a German perspective. They talked about the new realities that exist at home and abroad which require greater dialogue, exchange, and trust building. Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and Congressman Michael Turner (R-OH) offered their perspectives on the domestic determinants in shaping foreign policy priorities. ACG Board Chairman former U.S. Ambassador John Emerson; Jane Harman, President of the Woodrow Wilson Center; and, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius offered a more global perspective.

“The End of Multilateralism? Reflecting on 2017 and Looking Ahead to 2018”
On Monday, December 18, the ACG and Atlantik-Brücke hosted an evening panel discussion with Dr. Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, and German Ambassador to the United Nations Dr. Christoph Heusgen. During the conversation, which was moderated by Friedrich Merz, Chairman of AB, the two discussed the state of multilateralism, the United States’ role in the world, the future of transatlantic relations.

“The End of Jamaica, the End of Merkel? Analyzing What Happened and Predicting What Lies Ahead”
Two months after the German election, on November 30, the ACG, Deutsches Haus at NYU, and NYU’s Center for European and Mediterranean Studies reconvened a post-election panel to talk about coalition negotiations and the path forward with Dr. Sheri Berman, Professor of Political Science at Barnard College and Columbia University; Thomas Jahn, New York Correspondent for Handelsblatt; and Dr. Christian Martin, Professor of European and Mediterranean Studies and Max Weber Visiting Chair in German and European Studies at New York University. The discussion, moderated by ACG President Dr. Steven E. Sokol, covered a wide range of topics, from the failure to reach a coalition agreement between the Christian Democrats, the Free Democrats, and the Greens, to the possibility of a renewed Grand Coalition with the Social Democrats, to Merkel’s leadership skills and potential successors. Whatever the outcome of new coalition talks, the panelists agreed that Germany is stable and that it will remain committed to Europe. Listen to portions of the discussion here.

“New Priorities? Germany’s UN Policy after the Elections”
On November 27, at an evening discussion held in partnership with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Bundestag Member Dr. Andreas Nick (CDU) reflected on the failed coalition talks and Germany’s continued commitment to international affairs as it campaigns to become a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council. Dr. Nick said Germany remains committed to European integration, the transatlantic relationship, the environment, and free trade and open markets. In his view, there is significant consensus on foreign policy in Germany, and the basis of any German government’s strategic interest will be to maintain the current world order.

“China’s Role in the World after the 19th Party Congress”
On November 17, Tim Wenniges (2014 Young Leader) addressed members and friends of the ACG at the New York office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. As the current head of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung’s Office in Shanghai, Mr. Wenniges discussed the recent 19th Party Congress, China’s evolving role on the international stage, and President Donald Trump’s trip to Asia.

“‘We Have to Keep Talking!’ Transatlantic Relations in an Age of Disruption”
On November 16, the American Council on Germany held a discussion and luncheon with Bundestag Member Jürgen Hardt (CDU), who addressed the current state of the German government’s relationship with the Trump administration. The event was sponsored by DZ BANK. Despite some concern in Germany around the U.S. election and Inauguration Day, Mr. Hardt – who also serves as Foreign Policy Spokesman of the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group and as the Coordinator of Transatlantic Cooperation in the Federal Foreign Office – made assurances that the interaction between President Trump and Chancellor Merkel is frequent and positive. He underscored the strong presence of German business in the United States, stating that “we are not competitors; we are partners.” Mr. Hardt also acknowledged some challenges the transatlantic relationship still faces.

“The Evolution of International Terrorism and Its Domestic Impact”
On November 10, one week after a terrorist attack in New York City killed eight people, the ACG and the Global Center on Cooperative Security hosted a discussion with terrorism expert Dr. Guido Steinberg, Senior Associate for the Middle East and Africa at Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, SWP). He addressed a wide range of issues associated with international terrorism and counterterrorism efforts, including the development of international jihadist terrorism, the terrorist threat in Germany, and Uzbek jihadism.

“Polarization, Populism, and Politics in Germany and the United States: A Comparative Analysis”
With a view to analyzing the changing political landscape in Europe and the United States, the ACG and Deutsches Haus at NYU hosted a Political Salon on November 2 with Christopher Cermak, Editor of Handelsblatt Global, on the rise of populism and the polarization of politics on both sides of the Atlantic. Having been raised in Europe by Austrian and American parents, Mr. Cermak has gotten unique exposure to the mindsets on either side of the Atlantic. A deep sense of frustration on both sides has led to this polarization and the rise of populism on the political fringes. He believes that the best way to confront populism is to address the sense of hopelessness that many people feel, to provide real solutions to their problems, and to bring the U.S. and Germany forward together. Listen to portions of the discussion here.

“Russia and the West: What’s Next?”
On October 30, about 40 members and friends gathered for the final event in this current format for a discussion and luncheon with Young Leader alumna Dr. Angela Stent, Director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies and Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She discussed the relationship between Russia and the West in great detail, including the interaction of Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin.

“Three Elections and a Brexit: The Unraveling of Europe?”
On October 13, about 35 members and friends of the American Council on Germany gathered for a dynamic discussion and luncheon hosted by PwC Strategy& featuring former German diplomat Ambassador Thomas Matussek. A career Foreign Service Officer who served as German Ambassador to the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and India, he now consults for businesses and governments on the impact of Brexit and other matters. Ambassador Matussek began by outlining a litany of challenges Europe is up against, including but not limited to Brexit,  the refugee crisis, disparities between richer central European countries and a poorer south, high youth unemployment in Spain  and  Greece,  secessionist  tendencies  in  Catalonia  and  elsewhere,  EU  candidate  Turkey  drifting  in  the  wrong  direction,  and  open  conflict  on  Europe’s  eastern  border.

“Lessons Learned from Berlin’s Innovation and Digital Transformation”
On the periphery of this year’s Transatlantic Entrepreneur Partnership Conference, the ACG hosted a Breakfast Briefing on October 11 with Christian Rickerts, Berlin State Secretary for Economic Affairs, Energy, and Public Enterprises. Some 30 ACG members and friends gathered at DZ BANK for a lively discussion of the challenges Berlin faces and the city’s efforts to become more sustainable through the use of technology.

“Parsing Germany’s Election Results and Coalition Negotiations”
Less  than  two  weeks  after  the  German  federal  election,  the  make-­‐up  of  the  new  government  remains  in  flux  as  coalition  negotiations have not officially begun. On October 5, the ACG and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung hosted a panel discussion to reflect on the election results, consider the challenges of coalition building, and dissect what it all means for Europe and the transatlantic relationship. The evening began with opening statements from Nico Lange, Director of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung’s Washington Office, and Jeffrey Rathke, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, followed by a discussion moderated by ACG President Dr. Steven E. Sokol.

“After the German Federal Election: Analyzing the Results and Looking Ahead”
On September 25, the day after Germans took to the polls, more than 90 people gathered at Deutsches Haus at NYU for a panel discussion on the German federal election, organized by the American Council on Germany, Deutsches Haus at NYU, NYU’s Center for European and Mediterranean Studies, the CUNY European Union Studies Center, and CUNY’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies. The event was moderated by ACG’s president, Dr. Steven E. Sokol, and featured Dr. Sheri Berman, Professor of Political Science at Barnard College and Columbia University, Thomas Jahn, New York Correspondent for Handelsblatt, and Dr. Christian Martin, Professor of European and Mediterranean Studies and Max Weber Visiting Chair in German and European Studies at New York University.

Dr. Sokol began by saying that although the German and international press described the German campaign season as “boring,” some of the election results were surprising. He even went so far as to say that there was a “seismic shift” in the German body politic. He summarized the results as follows:
-Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats took a beating – but she came through and will serve a fourth term as Chancellor.
-Both the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats had their worst election results since 1949 – with 33% and 20.5% respectively.
-For the first time in more than 50 years, a populist right-wing party will be represented in the Bundestag. Not only that, but the Alternative for Germany (AfD) is the third largest party with nearly 13% of the vote.
-And, after failing to pass the five percent hurdle four years ago the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) are back. And, the next Bundestag will increase in size to over 700 seats – with seven parties represented.

“Germany: Final Countdown to the Elections”
On September 19, the ACG hosted a breakfast discussion with David Gill, Consul General of Germany in New York. He discussed the upcoming German elections, the growing popularity of the far-right party Alternative für Deutschland, and the likelihood of Chancellor Merkel being re-elected. A long time friend of the ACG and 1992 Young Leader, Gill became Consul General this summer. Special thanks to DZ BANK AG for sponsoring this discussion.

“Understanding the Global World of Jihad”
The day after the release of her book I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad, the American Council on Germany held a Political Salon in the New York offices of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, with investigative journalist Souad Mekhennet. Best known for her work covering the Middle East, North Africa, radical Islamic movements, and terrorism since shortly after September 11, Ms. Mekhennet has spent her career trying to understand the reasons for radicalization. She has been able to shed light on the global network of jihad. Some 25 members and friends of the ACG attended a lively discussion moderated by ACG President Dr. Steven E. Sokol. Covering a number of topics, she described some of her interactions with members of terrorist organizations, her life as a Muslim woman in Europe, and her work as a journalist.

“German Approaches to Crisis Prevention and the Marshall Plan for Africa”
On  June  5,  1947,  Secretary  of  State  George  C.  Marshall  delivered  a  speech  at  Harvard  University  that  would  later  become the blueprint for the Marshall Plan for post-­‐war reconstruction. Seventy years and one day later, on June 6, 2017, Bundestag Member Thorsten Frei spoke at an event co-­‐sponsored by the American Council on Germany and the  New  York  office  of  the  Konrad-­‐Adenauer-­‐Stiftung.  In  prepared  remarks  and  a  lively  discussion  with  25  ACG  members and friends, Mr. Frei talked about foreign policy, national security, development aid, and crisis prevention – as well as Germany’s Marshall Plan for Africa.

Covering Politics in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: European Elections, Populism, and Fake News
On May 26, nearly 50 members and friends of the Council gathered for the sixth Garrick Utley Memorial Lecture on Global Media Issues. This year the lecture featured a panel discussion with the General Director of Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), Tom Buhrow, and WDR’s Television Director and election analyst Jörg Schönenborn. Moderated by ACG President Dr. Steven E. Sokol, the discussion focused on U.S., European, and German politics; the rise of populism; and some of the hurdles media outlets face in the digital age. For an excerpt of the discussion, please visit soundcloud.

Transatlantic Economic Relations: Current Challenges and Perspectives
Matthias Machnig, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, spoke with nearly 40 members of the ACG on May 25 at DZ BANK in New York. He discussed challenges and opportunities in Europe and the transatlantic relationship. He observed that this is a period of great change on many levels, but particularly in economic, political, and geostrategic terms.

“Agriculture and Water Policy”
On May 22, the ACG partnered with the German Embassy to host a small dinner with Christian Schmidt, the German Federal Minister for Food and Agriculture. In brief remarks, he talked about resource scarcity and food security as catalysts for addressing some of today’s overarching global challenges, like migration. He made an impassioned plea for greater transatlantic cooperation in meeting these challenges. With a view to the G20 Summit in Hamburg, he highlighted agriculture as a key factor for sustainability – and said access to food is a significant contributor to political stability.

“Global Attitudes and Foreign Policy in an Era of Populism”
On May 18, the ACG hosted an evening discussion and reception with Dr. James Bell, Vice President of Global Strategy at Pew Research, and Jan Techau, Director of the Richard C. Holbrook Forum at the American Academy in Berlin. Some 20 ACG members and Fellowship Alumni attended the event at CMS. Law. Tax. in Berlin. During the discussion, which was moderated by ACG President Dr. Steven E. Sokol, the panel discussed public opinion in the United States and Europe, foreign and security policy, and some of the key challenges facing the transatlantic community. You can listen to a recording of this discussion on soundcloud.

“How Stable Is Europe? A Stock-Taking of the Latest Developments in Politics and Financial Markets”
During a discussion and luncheon on May 4, Dr. Joachim Wuermeling, a member of the Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank who is responsible for the Directorates General Markets and Information Technology, shared an overview of the range of challenges facing the eurozone with a group of 50 members and friends of the ACG at Morgan Stanley. Read his speech here.

“Europe’s Superwahljahr: New Challenges for Europe?”
On April 10, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (1997 Young Leader), Vice President of the European Parliament, discussed some of the regional, national, and supranational challenges for Europe in a critical election year. The luncheon was hosted by Alston & Bird LLP. In an extremely frank and open exchange, he shared his very optimistic views on Europe’s Superwahljahr, or super election year. With national elections in the Netherlands, France, the UK, Germany, and possibly Italy, as well as state elections, 2017 is a critical year for Europe. Graf Lambsdorff underlined the importance of a strong the Franco-German partnership for the future of the EU.

“Future Challenges to the German-American Economic Relationship in the Trump Administration”
On April 7, the American Council on Germany partnered with the Transatlantic Academy to hold a panel discussion on the economic challenges the transatlantic partnership faces in an age of globalization. More than 50 ACG members and friends attended the event, which was hosted by PwC Strategy& and featured Dr. Wade Jacoby, Professor of Political Science at Brigham Young University, and Dr. Harold James, Claude and Lore Kelly Professor of European Studies at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Gideon Rachman, Chief Foreign Affairs Columnist at the Financial Times, moderated the discussion. The panel reflected on both the preexisting and changing nature of German-American economic ties, noting that many of the challenges are not new. They are simply more apparent since the election of Trump.

“Five American Foreign Policy Traditions: How Does President Trump’s Approach Stack Up?”
Recognizing its 65th anniversary, the American Council on Germany held its Annual Meeting on March 29, 2017. Former ACG Board member Ambassador Robert B. Zoellick, who served as President of the World Bank and as U.S. Trade Representative, delivered a keynote address to nearly 100 members and friends. He described five U.S. foreign policy traditions and put President Donald J. Trump’s early foreign policy positions in an historic context. In his introduction, ACG Chairman Ambassador Robert M. Kimmitt described Ambassador Zoellick as having both extraordinary breadth and true depth of knowledge on an array of issues.

“Efforts at the UN and in Germany to Promote Gender Equity in a Changing Work Environment”
On a snowy March 14, the ACG and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung hosted a breakfast briefing with Bundestag Member Ursula Groden-Kranich (CDU). Ms. Groden-Kranich discussed the steps that Germany is taking in order to close the gender pay gap. Read more about the discussion here.

“Germany in the Super Election Year 2017: Implications for Germany’s Standing in Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship”
On February 27, the ACG hosted a discussion and luncheon with Dr. Jürgen Rüttgers, former Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia and former Federal Minister for Education, Science, Research, and Technology. Dr. Rüttgers discussed the  challenges  facing  Europe during the “Super Election Year.” While he  did  not  make  specific  predictions regarding the outcome of the German election in September, he did note the presence of forces similar to those which influenced the U.S. election in 2016. He highlighted the populist disenchantment with political elites.

Munich Security Conference
The ACG partnered with the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) to host a breakfast briefing as an official side event at the Munich Security Conference. General David Petraeus and Bundestag member Dr. Norbert Röttgen  (CDU) kicked off a lively discussion on the challenges facing the transatlantic partnership.

During the the discussion – which included German politicians as well as journalists, academics, and other foreign policy experts from both sides of the Atlantic – the group focused on the common challenges posed by powers such as Russia, China, and North Korea as well as non-state actors and Islamic extremists. They also talked about cyber security, the rise of populism, and  elections. There was consensus that complexity and uncertainty are the hallmarks of today’s world order and that the internal fragility of the transatlantic alliance can contribute to the destabilization of society.

Participants agreed that the transatlantic partnership cannot be taken for granted. It must be maintained.  While many of the attendees at the ACG-AICGS event agreed with the messages delivered by Vice President Pence and Defense Secretary Mattis at the MSC, they questioned how to reconcile those messages of support for NATO and a common security framework with the statements of President Trump.

“The Euro Area: The Current Economic Situation and the Ongoing Need for Institutional Reforms”
On February 9, Dr. Johannes Beermann, a Member of the Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank, discussed past, present, and future economic, fiscal, and monetary policy in the eurozone. More than 20 members and friends of the American Council on Germany braved the wintry weather to hear his insights at a discussion and reception hosted by Dentons US LLP.

“Governing in Uncertain Times: New Leadership in the United States and at the United Nations”
On January 25, 2017, the ACG hosted a discussion and luncheon with Ambassador Harald Braun, Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations. Some 45 friends and members of the ACG gathered to hear Amb Braun discuss the changing political atmosphere in the EU and the U.S. and what it means for transatlantic relations. Amb. Braun noted that though there has been some skepticism towards to the United Nations from the Trump administration, he was looking forward to working with Nikki Haley as she takes over as the United States Ambassador to the UN.

“Is TTIP Dead? The Future of Transatlantic Trade”
As the first event of the year, on January 12, 2017, the ACG and Cultural Vistas hosted a Political Salon with WirtschaftsWoche journalist, Simon Book. Mr. Book gave insights of the history of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and shared his views about the likelihood of a trade agreement being reached under the Trump administration. Though it may be unlikely for TTIP to be approved, Mr. Book does think it is possible that the Trump administration will try to reach bilateral trade agreements.

“After Brexit, U.S. Elections, and Italy’s Referendum: Germany’s Role in Europe”
On December 19, 2016, Bundestag Member Peter Beyer (CDU) briefed members about the challenges facing Europe and Germany’s leading role in meeting those challenges at a luncheon hosted by NORD/LB. After the discussion, Mr. Beyer participated in a podcast with Dr. Steven E. Sokol. Listen to the podcast here.

“The Future of Multilateralism: A View from the UN”
At the final Transatlantic Global Agenda event of the year, Germany’s outgoing Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Heiko Thoms, discussed the international order and the importance of multilateral organizations. He expressed concern about a potential vacuum that may emerge if the United States reduces its international engagement.

“Germany’s Leadership Role in the ‘New’ Europe”
Nearly 100 people attended a luncheon hosted by the ACG and sponsored by vbw and bayme vbm with Dr. Theo Waigel, former Federal Minister of Finance, on November 21, 2016. Covering a wide range of topics, Dr. Waigel painted a positive picture of Germany’s leadership role within Europe, the importance of a strong transatlantic partnership with the United States, and the success of the European project. He noted that during his time as Finance Minister, he faced great skepticism toward the EU and the euro. But he believes that without the single euro currency, the EU, in particular Germany, would not have been able to survive and recover from the recession of 2008.

“Meeting Today’s Global Challenges: Europe and the United States in Turbulent Times”
On November 11, 2016, more than 50 friends and members of the American Council on Germany gathered at a luncheon sponsored by Noerr LLP to hear from Ambassador João Vale de Almeida, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations. Just days after the U.S. election, he stated that globalization has introduced a new complexity to global governance, domestic issues, and foreign policy, because it is becoming difficult to separate them from each other. The Ambassador sees 2017 as the start of a new era and said the West should continue to be assertive in defending its values.

“Rising Russia: How to Deal with President Putin and His New Russia”
On October 21, 2016, the ACG and American Friends of Bucerius hosted a luncheon with Katja Gloger, Editor-at-Large of Stern magazine. Ms. Gloger, who has covered Russia for more than 25 years, gave thought-provoking insights on contemporary Russia, the mindset of Vladimir Putin, and how the West can cope with the “New Russia.” She noted that Russia is on its way to being a global power again and argued that we are already at the start of a new “Cold War.” This discussion was part of the 2016 Transatlantic Global Agenda Series.

“America and the World: What the U.S. Election Means for Foreign Policy”
More than 60 people joined the American Council on Germany, Cultural Vistas, and the German Consulate General of New York on October 20, 2016 for a panel discussion on the U.S. election and what it means for foreign affairs. The speakers were Christopher Caldwell, Senior Editor for The Weekly Standard, and Georg Mascolo, Head of the Joint Investigative Group of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, NDR, and WDR. The engaging conversation highlighted the foreign policy positions of the presidential candidates, as well as perspectives on globalization, trade, and immigration.

“Going Digital: Industry 4.0 in Germany”
On October 11, 2016, the ACG held a discussion and luncheon for corporate members and other close friends with Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, on the global digital economy and Industry 4.0 in Germany. Commissioner Oettinger spoke openly about both the challenges and the great potential of the digital economy and globalization. Technology and innovation may have given rise to populism and nationalism, but the “digital revolution” has great potential.

“The Transatlantic Partnership in an Age of Terrorism and Tectonic Shifts”
More than 80 members and friends of the American Council on Germany gathered at a luncheon sponsored by DZ BANK AG to hear from General Michael V. Hayden, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and former Director of the National Security Agency, on September 7, 2016. General Hayden said that although the United States and Europe are “like-minded” on many issues, there are fundamental differences around the use of force and privacy – and that this gap is widening. Differences notwithstanding, he said that countries should be guided not only by what is in their national interest, but also by what is in the interest of the greater good. In that regard, Germany’s actions under Chancellor Merkel regarding the euro and the refugee crisis may not be in the country’s best interest in the near term, but they are for the good of the regional and global order.